Five Questions For … Nick Kennedy, Founder of Dallas-Based Rise

Dallas — Texas is a far-flung state with metro-city populations that are about 200 miles away from each other. Because of that, tech innovation circles tend to largely stay amongst themselves, with the occasional meetup at South By Southwest Interactive in Austin.

As a way for people around the state to get to know each other a little better, I am kicking off a new feature called “Five Questions For … .” This story series aims to get a little more personal with Texas innovators, find out who and what motivates them, and talk about their struggles and inspirations.

For our first profile, I spoke with Nick Kennedy, founder and CEO of Rise, an aviation startup in Dallas that employs no pilots and owns no planes. “We’re a technology company,” Kennedy says.

After launching in 2015 with five employees and flights to and from Dallas, Houston, and Austin, Rise now has a 50-person staff and recently added service to San Antonio and a service to a second regional airport in Houston. Kennedy, who is 38, says the company’s mission is to leverage its software—which aims to match flight schedules based on demand—to help its road warrior members save time.

Here is an edited version of our conversation.

Xconomy: Tell me about your early influences.

Nick Kennedy: One of my main mentors who has since passed away was Calvin Howe, who was an entrepreneur; he owned a bunch of Hampton Inns and other businesses. One of the influences he had on my life was to establish early on principles on which you can live your life and build businesses on. He was talking about making decisions that at the time seemed hard, but in the long run, had really good consequences with regard to how you treat people and invest in employees.

He always talked about, you make a certain amount of money and then give everything away. I was fresh out of college and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I had school debt and could barely make rent. I was not focused on decades down the road, just tomorrow.

For some reason, he took a liking to me. I reached out to him; I was a junior in college (at Harding University in Searcy, AR) and was at a place when I was trying to figure out what I was going to be when I was growing up. I reached out and said, Can you help?

The amazing thing about really great people … there are very … Next Page »

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